(no subject)

I didn't know if this was a true photo or someone's overly stereotypical caricature — it looked just too aesthetically perfect, down to the paypal address on the flipchart, to have happened in real life:

But no; it turned out that this was a picture from a real seminar held back in 2017. I don't know where the original footage from that event is, but this one, although clearly not an original, has decent quality:


(no subject)

Spent half a day trying to remember a word. I felt there was that quality that I wanted to express, and that I knew the word, but that it was — not on the tip of my tongue but rather stuck somewhere behind the misfiring neurons, and just wouldn't be teased out into the open. My brain kept suggesting that the word I was thinking of must start with a c. I looked up decency and sincerity in the thesaurus in the hope of finding a suitably looking synonym, but there was nothing in the results that would satisfy the itch.

Half a day later, it just came to me. Integrity :-)

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Saw this retweeted by a developer (and actually written by a developer):

Isn't it a rather insane point to make? I don't know what exactly the right is objecting to; but freedom of speech and openness to ideas does not mean being required to listen to someone's speech and then being graded on how faithfully you can reproduce it. School curriculum is (or at least used to be) quite dictatorial in this regard, mandating the subjects that you study, the curriculum that is covered, and the range of behaviors you are allowed to exhibit within each subject.

(no subject)

An illustration of the state of the modern Russian communication:

For one thing, the mayor uses the low-class vernacular verb "ставить" referring to getting a shot of the vaccine; from the old substandard phrase "ставить прививку", which used to be criticized in Soviet textbooks. Which is fine, given his social history; but a news portal (does the eponymous newspaper still exist?) repeated his verb when they reported on his disclosure (1st paragraph), without changing the phrase into a more standard form. The disorienting effect of this, at least to me, is as if he has "supplied" the vaccine somewhere.

The blog post, which the article refers to, ends in a passage with another grammatical feature that feels relatively recent (10-15 years?) — a peculiar absence of the first-person pronoun in the second sentence:

I first started noticing this peculiar stinginess for pronouns in unsolicited emails from recruiters that I occasionally receive; then I noticed it in the rare Putin's speeches that I sometimes can't help but overhear; and I still can't figure out why this has taken off. It still sounds as a jarring stylistic novelty to me.

(no subject)

This sucks so bad, and on so many levels. Not only because Bret and his guests, with all their possible shortcomings, at least aren't raving lunatics, and present a steelman version of the argument; not just because this, not for the first time, demonstrates how some topics are tabooed and censored out; but also because social media companies, which have made it so easy for us to share information that they are used by default, can't be trusted with preserving the public record:

One possible solution would be to migrate to Odysee, like Bryan Lunduke did. Beyond that, I don't know what the next place to tell the world to go fuck itself would be. Where do the much-hated Infowars host their videos, I wonder.

(no subject)

The Peril of Politicizing Science is a just published article by an ex-Soviet chemist, Anna Krylova, drawing parallels between her memories of the Soviet Union and the ideological contortions of the present-day intelligentsia and Western culturo-political imperatives.

She emigrated late in her life, and this seems to be a sample of her speech from a couple of years ago. I confess to a shameful prejudice: I wouldn't have expected a person who talks like this to be able to write like this. But then, of course, every time I experience this kind of cognitive dissonance, I remember Ayn Rand. Whom I haven't read yet. Damn.

Must have taken quite a lot of guts by the journal editors to publish her opinion piece.

P.S.: Ah, Archimede’s Principle is clearly a legacy of the Russian education that has not been caught by the copy editor.

(no subject)

What's stopping anyone who wants to focus on a11y, ethics (huh?) or UX from focusing on those instead of spending their time trying to keep up?

(no subject)

Ok, here's finally what I wanted from Bret :-) He got two reasonably knowledgeable people on his podcast, one of whom has a background in genetics / gene therapy / vaccine development; and allows them to speak without incessant interjections with rephrasings for the benefit of the unlearned (to be fair though, one of his guests is very difficult to interrupt). His guests may be wrong but at least they don't look like total kooks and make sense when presenting their case.

There's an irony in this fragment. One of his guests says that there have not been double-blind randomized controlled trials of the benefits of mask wearing (because it's hard to be blind to the fact of wearing a mask); and yet they have been mandated because of the "precautionary principle" (not sure what that is). Then he says that there has been a trial in Denmark that has shown no statistically significant difference of wearing masks over not wearing them. While I have no idea whether there really was such a trial and whether it actually concluded what the guest claims it did, I remembered how vehemently Bret and Heather defended the common-sense self-evident truth that masks must be effective. This time, however, Bret didn't even object; just nodded sagely. His pet project is now ivermectin rather than bandannas or masks.

If one ignores the appallingly clickbaity title of the video, or how much of a fuss Bret makes in the beginning about how he takes ivermectin, it is actually not a bad conversation.

(no subject)

Retweeted by a developer:

Every time I see something like this, it reminds me of the question I have: how much knowledge about the past do you need to have / want to teach in schools, and why? Especially given how much of our stories about the past are mythologized.

For comparison. In a debate with his brother Christopher, Peter, the less stellar of the two, opened his statement with the following: "The religion that I grew up with in England was not what you might think. The christianity of England by that time was a pallid, anemic thing. The thing that we were all brought up to believe in was in something called 'We won the war'. Its saints were the pilots of the battle of Britain; its god was Winston Churchill; and it suffused everything we did".

(no subject)

A passage from Ted Chiang's short story, The Truth of the Fact, the Truth of the Feeling:

Before a culture adopts the use of writing, when its knowledge is transmitted exclusively through oral means, it can very easily revise its history. It’s not intentional, but it is inevitable; throughout the world, bards and griots have adapted their material to their audiences and thus gradually adjusted the past to suit the needs of the present. The idea that accounts of the past shouldn’t change is a product of literate cultures’ reverence for the written word. Anthropologists will tell you that oral cultures understand the past differently; for them, their histories don’t need to be accurate so much as they need to validate the community’s understanding of itself. So it wouldn’t be correct to say that their histories are unreliable; their histories do what they need to do.

It struck me that what Chiang describes — quite favorably — as characteristic of an oral culture, i.e. the malleability of the past to serve the needs of the present, is exactly what Orwell was so appalled by in nineteen eighty-four.

By the way, Chiang is curiously prescient of today’s culture wars. The above story, from 2013, can serve as a literary illustration of "different ways of knowing", a phrase that has become so popular over the last couple of years. And the story Liking What You See: A Documentary, published in 2002, about a university campus-led fight against a kind of discrimination that is described as "lookism" is very reminiscent of the battles against modern-day isms.